Emile Smith Rowe has taken Arsenal’s No.10 shirt after signing a new five-year contract with the club.
The decision to hand Smith Rowe the number is a sign of the club’s faith in the 20-year-old, given the pressure that can come from wearing an iconic shirt.
Arsenal rejected bids of £25m and £30m from Aston Villa for the attacking midfielder recently and have backed up the move by giving him more responsibility and status.
“Everyone knows that No.10 is a big shirt and it is definitely a big position as well. I’m buzzing. I can’t wait to get on the pitch,” Smith Rowe said.
“It's really special – I can't explain the feeling when I found out. I've not really got the words to explain it right now! But yeah, I'm really happy.
“The legends that have played here and have worn the shirt… it's a bit too much right now but I'm sure I will calm down after a while.”
The No.10 shirt holds plenty of weight for the Gunners in the Premier League era. Here are its previous incumbents.
An Arsenal club legend and the first man to wear the shirt in the Premier League up until he moved on in 1997.
Merson contributed 99 goals in 423 appearances over 12 years with the Gunners and is still remembered fondly in the red half of north London.
The attacking midfielder helped Arsenal win two league titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup.
The ultimate Arsenal No.10 and many fans’ favourite player of all time.
Bergkamp arrived at Highbury in 1995 and left 11 years later having provided a lifetime’s worth of memories for Gunners supporters.
The fact he won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups only tells part of the story; Bergkamp’s appeal went beyond trophies and was more about the way he went about scoring and creating goals.
A regular in goal of the season compilations, the Dutch forward scored a hatful of beautiful goals and left a lasting impression at the club.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Unlike the others on this list, Gallas had no business wearing the No.10 shirt.
The central defender wound up those who believe such numbers should be reserved for attacking players by taking the shirt in 2006.
“It was good for Arsenal that I wore the number,” the Frenchman told FourFourTwo magazine in 2017. “If a young player is given the No.10 shirt, it'll be far too much pressure on his shoulders.”
Gallas joined the club from Chelsea, played for Arsenal for four years and then left… for Tottenham, further cementing his reputation as a wind-up merchant.
Robin van Persie
Van Persie followed in Bergkamp’s footsteps by taking the shirt off Gallas in 2010. He spent eight years at Arsenal, from 2004 to 2012, but left behind a mixed reputation.
On the one hand, Van Persie was a supremely gifted striker, capable of scoring one of the most aesthetically pleasing goals imaginable – a stunning volley against Charlton in 2006 – and of banging in 30 goals in a single Premier League campaign during the 2011/12 season.
Yet his struggles with injuries and departure to Manchester United in 2012 meant he was never universally adored like Bergkamp.
Van Persie won just one trophy with Arsenal – the 2005 FA Cup – and his move to United was immediately vindicated, in his mind at least, by the 2012/13 Premier League title.
Who is your favourite Arsenal No.10? Have your say in the comments section below.
Wilshere always had a place in the hearts of Arsenal fans, having come through the academy to make his first-team debut aged 16.
The central midfielder held the shirt for five seasons after Van Persie’s departure and treated his supporters to plenty of moments of supreme skill.
Two Match of the Day goal of the season awards shows both his talent and Arsenal fans’ ability to swing a public vote in his favour.
Another player who suffered terribly with injuries, Wilshere ultimately never fulfilled his great promise and has struggled to make an impact with West Ham and Bournemouth since leaving Arsenal in 2018.
Aged 29, he is currently without a club having been released by Bournemouth.
A complex character whose legacy is hard to assess.
Ozil’s Arsenal career can be split into two halves: the good earlier years, laden with assists, and the bad, his isolation and protracted departure.
The German playmaker’s £350,000 per week contract was always used as a stick with which to beat him, but now he’s off the wage bill, Gunners fans can perhaps reflect on the good times he provided.
In the 2015/16 season he recorded 19 assists in a single Premier League campaign to match the tally of Cesc Fabregas in 2014/15 and finish one short of Arsenal royalty Thierry Henry’s record.
For a sweet five years, between his £42m arrival from Real Madrid in 2013 until his ill-fated bumper contract in 2018, he was undeniably world-class.
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Emile Smith Rowe
After a season in which the No.10 lay dormant, Smith Rowe has now taken up the challenge.
The youngster already has a good base from which to build. As a home-grown player, he has heaps of good will behind him following a breakthrough campaign in 2020/21.
Smith Rowe’s positivity and exuberance in playing with his head up is a commendable attribute Arsenal fans will hope to see plenty more of over the next five years.
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